A Court of Quebec judge under fire for allegedly lending more than $9 million in loans over the past few years has been absolved of any ethical breaches by a five-member panel of the Committee of Inquiry of the Conseil de la magistrature du Québec.
The inquiry committee concluded that Judge Manlio Del Negro, nominated as a Court of Quebec judge on March 2017, did not infringe article 129 of the Quebec Courts of Justice Act nor did he breach the Quebec Judicial Code of Ethics. Under article 129 of the Act, the office of judge is exclusive. In other words, a lawyer appointed judge is legally required to refrain from any activity which is not compatible with his functions, including carrying out – even indirectly — commercial activities.
The inquiry committee recommended that the judicial council reject the complaint lodged by the Quebec Minister of Justice Stephanie Vallée.
“The Committee concludes that a judge must be given a reasonable amount of time to put his affairs in order to meet the obligations of his new posting, and that Judge Del Negro demonstrated the necessary will and energy to so within an acceptable timeframe under the circumstances,” held the inquiry committee in a decision issued on May 1st.
Evidence at the hearing revealed that a week after being nominated Judge Del Negro resigned as trustee from the trust named Fiducie Famille Del Negro. He also “revealed his situation” at the first meeting he held with Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau and confirmed his commitment to “quickly take steps” to withdraw from his commercial activities and comply with the requirements of a judge.
Several months later the French-language television network TVA and the French-language tabloid Journal de Montréal disclosed that as of as of June 5, 2017, Judge Del Negro was still a creditor in four dossiers, where the mortgage guarantees allegedly amounted to $800,000, with interest rates ranging from six to 12 per cent.
The inquiry committee found that at the time that the news report was published, there were monies owed on three loans issued by the Del Negro trust. But Judge Del Negro, points out the inquiry committee, released and wrote-off the mortgage debts, and in fiscal 2016 declared a capital loss of more than $83,000, excluding interest.
The inquiry committee underscored that article 129 of the Act prohibits the “conduct” of commercial activities, and not passive investments.